Genes predicting healthy ageing identified

A team of researchers has identified a set of genes that can tell whether people are heading towards healthy ageing or not.

Accumulation of unrepaired DNA damage has been one of the main causes of ageing. These can also lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The study, published in the journal Ageing, targetted SIRT6 gene — known to play an instrumental role in DNA repair.

The SIRT6 gene was found to have an effect in pathological ageing, but not in normal ageing, said Debra Toiber, from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

The team also determined which genes are better candidates for targeted therapies and whose damage can be reversed by interventions such as calorie restriction.

“My research for the last several years has focused on unlocking the secrets of SIRT6, which we discovered, plays a number of prominent roles in ageing,” Toiber said.

Previous studies show that SIRT6 plays an instrumental role in DNA repair.

Its levels were found to decrease in the ageing brain. It serves as a first responder in DNA double strand breaks, immediately going to work but also signalling to other proteins to come help repair the damage.

Since there are many changes in ageing and in these pathologies, the researchers compared SIRT6-impaired mice to regular mice, both the same age and compared to older mice.

They were able to identify these changes and also find the genes that could predict whether a brain is moving towards healthy ageing or pathological ageing.